Colorado

Mob Rule at The Denver Post

The Denver Post’s civility policy for its online forums is anything but civil. It is an online version of mob rule, where opinions are weighed not for accuracy or merit but by how well they conform to the demands of the Right Wing Thought Police.

On December 13, the Denver Post ran a story about the surprising Democratic victory over Republican pedophile Roy Moore in Alabama. The Post story quoted Cory Gardner’s statement, “I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”

I replied to this story in the Comments section following the article. This is what I wrote:

Gardner believes that Alabama is “really” a Republican state and that the majority of Alabamans are Republicans; therefore, the new Senator should behave like a Republican. By that logic, Trump should behave like a Democrat, since he lost the election by 3 million votes. 3 Million votes would seem to say that America is actually a Democratic nation. The Senate should also “do the right thing” and pass Democratic policies. There were 39 million people who voted for Republican members of Congress, compared to 45 million who voted for Democrats. If Gardner is so concerned about “doing the right thing”, then he should support legislation that the majority of America wants, like gun control, healthcare, climate protection, Net neutrality, and other issues where Republicans are out of step with America. Gardner and the Republicans have never cared about “doing the right thing.” They don’t even care about representing voters. They only care about their donors and their own careers.

The Denver Post uses a system that asks readers whether a post is “Civil.” There doesn’t seem to be any computer algorithm involved in this judgement. It is a simple vote of Post readers who happen to be online at the time.

My comment “was rated below the civility threshold for publication” and was deleted. Apparently, the people who were online at the time were Republicans.

I am not angry that my comment was deleted. I have been deleted or blocked from forums before. My own Congressman, Ken Buck, blocked me from his Facebook page and deleted my comments shortly after he came into office. My comments magically reappeared after an article I had written about his censorship appeared on HuffingtonPost.

I am concerned because we have reached the point where any disagreement, any challenge, can now be dismissed as “Uncivil” regardless of how polite the wording. I agree that civil discourse is important. But “civility” has been redefined as “people who agree with me.” Anyone who dares to disagree is ridiculed and dismissed. Trump’s attacks on the media have metastasized like an authoritarian cancer.

Facts are not always polite. Truth doesn’t care about your politics or your feelings. The fact is that America is now ruled by a political party that is out of step with what the majority of Americans think about most major issues. Republicans are in power – and our freedoms are at risk –  because of gerrymandering and voter suppression, not because the majority of Americans agree with Alt-Right ideology. Right wing propaganda, foreign and domestic, fueled the Trump campaign. The Denver Post is adding to this problem when it blocks comments that use facts to make a strong argument.

I am obviously free to post comments on left-learning, Progressive forums. But nothing will change if Progressives and Conservatives are only allowed to speak in their respective safe places. If we want discourse, we must be willing to listen to those who disagree.

Throwing it All Away

From US Dept of the Interior

Secretary Jewell Announces Proposal to Reduce Methane Emissions, Wasted Gas on Public, Tribal Lands

Proposal Would Limit Venting, Flaring and Leaking from Oil & Gas Operations to Reduce Waste and Harmful Emissions, Provide Fair Return to Taxpayers

1/22/2016

Date: January 22, 2016
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov
Matt Spangler (BLM) 202-912-7035

WASHINGTON – As part of the Interior Department’s reform agenda for a cleaner, more secure energy future, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today proposed to update 30 year-old regulations in order to reduce the wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and American Indian lands. The proposed rule on venting, flaring and leaking will help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes, and States.

“I think most people would agree that we should be using our nation’s natural gas to power our economy – not wasting it by venting and flaring it into the atmosphere,” said Secretary Jewell. “We need to modernize decades-old standards to reflect existing technologies so that we can cut down on harmful methane emissions and use this captured natural gas to generate power and provide a return to taxpayers, tribes and states for this public resource. We look forward to hearing from the public on this proposal.”

U.S. oil production is at its highest level in nearly 30 years and the nation is now the largest natural gas producer in the world, providing an abundant source of clean-burning fuel to power and heat American homes and businesses. At the same time, venting and leaks during oil and gas operations are major sources of harmful methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. methane emissions are projected to increase substantially without additional steps to lower them. The proposal announced today is consistent with the Obama Administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

Currently, vast amounts of natural gas from public and Indian lands are lost through venting, flaring and leaks from oil and gas operations. Between 2009 and 2014, enough natural gas was lost through venting, flaring and leaks to power more than five million homes for a year. States, Tribes and federal taxpayers also lose royalty revenues when natural gas is wasted – as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenue for the Federal Government and the States that share it, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Developed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM), the proposed rule would require oil and gas producers to adopt currently available technologies, processes and equipment that would limit the rate of flaring at oil wells on public and tribal lands, and would require operators to periodically inspect their operations for leaks, and to replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Operators would also be required to limit venting from storage tanks and use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells. The new measures would also clarify when operators owe royalties on flared gas, and ensure that BLM’s regulations provide congressionally authorized flexibility to set royalty rates at or above 12.5 percent of the value of production.

“The commonsense and cost-effective measures we are proposing reflect the recommendations of several government studies as well as stakeholder views and tribal consultation over the last two years,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “These updated regulations, which would be phased in over several years to allow operators to make the transition more cost efficiently, would not only get more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines and delivered to market but also reduce pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change.”

The BLM’s current rules addressing venting and flaring were adopted over 30 years ago, long before new technologies unlocked vast new natural gas supplies in the United States. Recent technological advances allow operators to produce more oil and gas with less waste. About 40 percent of natural gas now vented or flared from onshore Federal leases could be economically captured with currently available technologies, according to the 2010 GAO report.

Several oversight reviews, including studies by the Interior Department’s Inspector General and the GAO, have raised concerns about the waste of gas from oil and gas operations on public lands and found BLM’s existing requirements insufficient. Several states, including Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, and most recently Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also taken steps to limit venting, flaring and/or leaks.

“It’s time to modernize our regulations to reflect today’s technologies and meet today’s priorities,” said BLM Director Kornze. “By asking operators to take simple, common-sense actions to reduce waste – like swapping out old equipment and checking for leaks – we expect to cut this waste almost in half. The gas saved would be enough to supply every household in the cities of Dallas and Denver combined – every year.”

The BLM has worked to ensure that the proposed regulations would not impose conflicting or redundant requirements. In developing this proposal, the BLM looked to the States’ requirements and worked closely with the EPA to align the agencies’ proposals as much as possible, consistent with specific statutory authorities and responsibilities. The BLM is committed to continue coordinating with the EPA, as well as with individual States, to streamline regulations.

In developing this proposal, the BLM engaged in substantial stakeholder outreach, including a series of public forums in 2014 and 2015 to consult with tribal and state governments and to solicit stakeholder views. The BLM held public meetings in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., as well as separate tribal outreach sessions. The agency also accepted informal comments generated as a result of the public and tribal outreach sessions.

The public will have 60 days to submit comments on the proposal once it is published in the Federal Register. The BLM also plans to hold a series of public meetings on the proposed rule in February and March.

A fact sheet on the proposed rule is available here. The proposed rule can be found here, along with the Regulatory Impact Analysis and Environmental Assessment.


Fact Sheet On Methane And Waste Reduction Rule

OVERVIEW: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to update its regulations to reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting, and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and Indian lands. The proposed rules, which would be phased in over several years, will help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies; reduce harmful air pollution, including greenhouse gases; and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes, and States.

The BLM’s proposal would require oil and gas producers to take commonsense and cost- effective measures to reduce this waste of gas, modernizing the existing, more than 30-year-old oil and gas production rules and bringing them in line with technological advances in the industry.  In addition, the proposed rule would modify the existing royalty rate provisions to better align with the BLM’s authority and enhance flexibility, but the rule would not raise royalty rates.

FACT: The BLM’s onshore oil and gas management program is a major contributor to our nation’s oil and gas production.  Domestic production from over 100,000 federal onshore oil and gas wells accounts for five percent of the nation’s oil supply and eleven percent of its natural gas.  In Fiscal Year 2014, the production value of this oil and gas exceeded $27 billion and generated approximately $3 billion in royalties.

FACT: Large quantities of natural gas are wasted during oil and gas production.  Between 2009 and 2014, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands vented, flared and leaked about 375 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas.  That’s enough gas to supply about 5.1 million households for a year.  These losses create a myriad of problems, including: releasing harmful emissions, including methane, into the atmosphere; safety issues, if not properly handled; and waste of a valuable domestic energy resource.

FACT: Taxpayers are losing out.  States, Tribes and federal taxpayers also lose royalty revenues when natural gas is wasted – as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenue for the Federal Government and the States that share it, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

FACT: The proposed rule would minimize waste of natural gas. The proposed rule could save and put to productive use 41 to 56 Bcf of gas a year – enough to supply up to about 760,000 households each year. Overall, the rule would reduce flaring by an estimated 41 – 60 percent and venting by roughly 44 – 46 percent (compared to 2013 rates).

FACT: Inaction is not an option. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, accounts for nine percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and almost one-third of that is estimated to come from oil and gas operations. U.S. methane emissions are projected to rise substantially without additional steps to lower them.  Several states, including North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and most recently Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also taken steps to limit venting, flaring and/or leaks.

FACT: The proposed rule would reduce emissions that worsen climate change.  BLM estimates that this rule could avoid an estimated 164,000-169,000 tons of methane emissions per year, equivalent to 4.1-4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This is also roughly equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from 860,000 – 890,000 vehicles.

FACT: The proposed rule’s benefits are projected to outweigh its costs.  Using conservative assumptions, the BLM estimates that the rule’s net benefits could range from $115 to $188 million per year.  Benefits include revenues for operators from sale of recovered natural gas and environmental benefits of reducing methane emissions and other air pollutants.

FACT: Impacts to operators are expected to be minimal.  Many oil and gas operators are voluntarily taking steps proposed in the rule to reduce wasted gas and improve operations.  The BLM estimates that the annual cost to industry of implementing the rule will be $125-161 million.  Individual, small business operators may see profit margins reduced by roughly one- tenth of one percent, on average. About 40 percent of natural gas now vented or flared from onshore Federal leases could be economically captured with currently available technologies, according to the 2010 GAO report.

FACT: The proposed rule reflects stakeholder outreach through public meetings and tribal consultations.  The BLM conducted public and tribal meetings in 2014. In addition, the proposal will now be open to a 60-day public comment period, during which the BLM will hold another series of public meetings and consult further with Tribes.  The BLM will also continue to coordinate with individual states, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, to avoid inconsistency or redundancy in regulations.

PROPOSED RULE OVERVIEW

The Mineral Leasing Act requires the BLM to ensure that operators “use all reasonable
precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas.”  Important elements of the proposed rule include:

LIMITING ROUTINE GAS FLARING

  • Currently, there is no upper limit on how much an operator can flare.  The proposal would phase in, over several years, a flaring limit per development oil well, averaged across all of the producing wells on a lease.
    • Year one limit: 7,200 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well;
    • Year two limit: 3,600 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well; and
    • Year three limit (and thereafter): 1,800 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well.
  • Estimated to affect about 16% of existing wells, which account for about 87% of gas flared.
  • Applies only to flared associated gas from production wells, not flaring from exploration or wildcat wells or during emergencies.
  • Provides an exemption if meeting the limit would cause an operator to cease production and abandon significant recoverable oil reserves under a lease.
  • Operators could comply with the proposed flaring limits by: expanding gas-capture infrastructure (e.g. installing compressors to increase pipeline capacity, or connecting wells to existing infrastructure through gathering lines); adopting alternative on-site capture technologies (e.g. compressing the natural gas or stripping out natural gas liquids and trucking the product to a gas processing plant); or temporarily slowing production at a well to minimize losses until capture infrastructure is installed.
  • Also improves disclosure of flared volumes by requiring metering when flared volumes reach 50 Mcf/day.

PRE-DRILLING PLANNING FOR GAS CAPTURE

  • Currently, there is no mechanism to better align timing of well development and pipeline installation.
  • Before drilling a development oil well, operators would need to evaluate opportunities for gas capture and prepare a waste minimization plan, which must be submitted with an Application for Permit to Drill.
  • The plan must meet various requirements, and must be shared with midstream gas capture companies to facilitate timely pipeline development, but plan details would not be enforceable elements of the permit to drill.

DETECTING LEAKS

  • The proposed rule will require operators to use an instrument-based leak detection program to find and repair leaks.  Operators could use infrared cameras or other methods approved by the BLM; smaller operators (fewer than 500 wells) could alternatively use portable analyzers assisted by audio, visual and olfactory inspection.
  • Operators would begin by inspecting twice a year.  If they consistently find few leaks, they would be allowed to inspect annually, while if they consistently find more leaks, they would be required to inspect quarterly.
  • The proposal is similar to EPA’s recent proposed rule requiring leak detection and repair for new wells and facilities, as well as leak detection and repair requirements in Colorado and Wyoming.

REDUCING VENTING

  • Except in narrowly specified circumstances, operators would be prohibited from venting natural gas.  Exceptions include emergencies and venting from certain equipment subject to proposed limits.
  • Operators would have to replace all “high bleed” pneumatic controllers with “low bleed” controllers within one year in most instances, tracking requirements in Colorado and Wyoming.
  • Operators would generally have to replace certain pneumatic pumps with solar pumps, if adequate for the function, or route the pumps to a flare (if one is available on-site), similar to Wyoming and proposed EPA requirements for new and/or existing pumps.
  • Within six months of rule’s effective date, operators would have to capture or flare gas from storage tanks that vent more than six tons of volatile organic compounds (Volatile Organic Compounds)/year.  This is expected to affect fewer than 300 tanks and is similar to EPA requirements for new tanks and Colorado and Wyoming requirements for new and existing tanks.
  • Operators of new wells (drilled after rule’s effective date) would generally not be allowed to purge those wells into the atmosphere; and operators unloading liquids from existing wells would be required to use best management practices.
  • Operators would be required to capture, flare, use, or re-inject gas released during well completions.  This would affect only conventional well completions, assuming that EPA finalizes its proposed rule for all hydraulically fractured well completions and recompletions.

CLARIFYING AND REVISING ROYALTY RATES

  • The proposal revises existing royalty provisions for onshore oil and gas leases to specify a royalty rate at or above 12.5 percent for new competitive leases, consistent with the statutory authority in the Mineral Leasing Act.
  • This modifies the existing regulation, which sets the rate at 12.5 percent and leaves the BLM no discretion to raise the rate as conditions change.
  • The proposal responds to findings and recommendations in audits from the Government Accountability Office and Department of Interior Office of Inspector General.
  • The BLM does not currently propose to raise royalty rates for new competitive leases.
  • The proposed rule also clarifies that royalties would apply only to gas flared from wells already connected to gas capture infrastructure. This reduces burden on operators to submit applications for approval to flare royalty-free.

I Think They’ve Peaked…

Eat shit!

Sometimes you can only say it so nicely.

Well, once again the cowards are getting their asses handed to them.

I watch the right wing online and one particular site spewed the most ridiculous lies and distortions for months, hammering away at the recall backers. The anti-union rhetoric was disgusting, especially in the state that hosted the Ludlow Massacre. Feh. The “thugs” in CO have already clearly identified themselves.

Here’s what Westword said about them:

Political Blog Colorado Peak Politics is Denver’s Best Political Blog.

Because of the secret-secret nature of this blog, it’s not entirely clear where it’s based.

Golly.

Why are right wingers in Colorado such scaredy-cats? Too afraid to put their name on their work? Or just unwilling to admit who’s pulling their strings? It’s very obvious that there’s fundy money and oil money at work.

Also, to those who whine about FRL censoring ‘opposing views.’ Bullshit. I’ve posted comments that were CIVIL. The rules are simple. The people bitching are just louts that want to make FRL a cesspool like the Times-Call’s virtually-unmoderated comments. When the hero behind Not So Bonita fesses up, then, maybe they can post comments here. Till then, to hades with them.

As for this wingnut echo-chamber, I don’t see ANYWHERE to comment. What courage.
Update, LOL, they’ve turned on comments apparently. Not a lot of folks agreeing with them.

Obviously they’re not interested in what anyone has to say.

And it seems to run both ways, based on the election results.

Big Kisses kids.

From Dr. Evil, with love

Recently The Sentinel’s editorial page repeated a charge that’s been formulated by the right-wing echo chamber: that the movement to oppose fracking is brought to you by “Russkies.” The more we see these desperate attempts to malign advocates (in this case, a Hail Mary pass that’s reminiscent of red baiting during the McCarthy era), the more we know: we’re winning.

The “journalistic investigations” referred to in Rick Wagner’s column linking the environmental movement to Russia have not come from journalists at all: the people behind the attack are the folks at a front group led by PR man for the oil and gas industry, Rick Berman — a man 60 Minutes has dubbed “Dr. Evil.” His dishonest attacks have targeted public interest groups from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to unions — and are bought and paid for by industry. He’s the man corporate executives call when things go horribly, horribly wrong for them in the court of public opinion.

And, for the oil and gas industry, that’s precisely what has happened. Despite paying more than $85 million to PR and advertising firms since 2012, and spending just shy of $12 million to influence the 2014 elections in Colorado, polls are not looking good for fracking. A recent Pew Poll, for instance, showed that 51 percent of the general public is opposed to increased fracking. The number leaps when you look at the scientists (66 percent) and biologists and medical scientists (73 percent) opposed to increased fracking. These numbers have the industry on high alert.

Coloradans are not fooled by these oil and gas industry scare tactics. Despite being outspent 30-to-1 by the oil and gas industry, five communities along the Front Range have voted to protect their health, safety and property from this dangerous, industrial practice. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the industry are desperately afraid of this bipartisan opposition to fracking and they have teamed up to undermine these public votes in the courts.

It’s also ironic that this line of attack is coming from Berman since he was secretly taped at a recent industry event in Colorado. The New York Times quoted Berman as saying, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” He also told the executives present, “Think of this as an endless war” (apparently touting his own services) “and you have to budget for it.” With the proliferation of front groups across Colorado promoting fracking — including the innocuously named Vital for Colorado, CRED, and Energy in Depth — it appears the industry is heeding his advice.

According to the Times, Berman told the executives that he could hide their role in funding his campaigns. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”

So “Dr. Evil” knows a little something about obscuring facts. And as happens with a specious argument not based on facts, somewhere along the way, it was claimed that Food & Water Watch has been given money by the Sea Change Foundation, the foundation that Berman’s organization linked to Russian interests — a charge repeated in Wagner’s column. Food & Water Watch has never been funded by Sea Change.

Please don’t look to the oil and gas industry and their right-wing echo chamber to stay up on the facts, because on the facts, they lose on every count. Fracking is bad for the environment, communities and public health, and should be banned.

Sam Schabacker is the Western Region director for Food & Water Watch and is based in Denver. He is a native of Boulder.

A New Colorado Democratic Party

Vic Meyers for CDP Chair — A New Colorado Democratic Party

My Philosophy

Vic Meyers - Candidate for CO Democratic Party Chair

Vic Meyers – Candidate for CO Democratic Party Chair

The Democratic Party, at both the national and state levels, exists to support candidates and advance the values and ideals of the Democratic Party platform. All politics being local, one would think that the State Party would feed up to the National. But over the course of the last decade this model has been reversed, and our state-level and Congressional campaigns are run from Washington, D.C. This led to 2014, when instead of formulating a message that derived from and resonated with the grass-roots of Colorado Democrats, our campaigns adopted a national narrative, which in most cases was based on national polling and resulted in pre-conceived ideas and beliefs of “Democrats.” This disengaged CO Dems and depressed turnout, and it’s the model that that led to Republicans taking over the Colorado Senate, U.S. Senate, and expanding their U.S. House majority by a record margin. In a state where unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats or Republicans by 100,000 voters, it is imperative that we have a robust base of Democratic activists to constantly engage voters.

We must fundamentally recognize that the backbone of our state party is the county-level party organizations, and that the role of the state party is to provide them with the resources they need to be as strong and effective as possible. We need a new model, one that is Ground-Up, not D.C.-Down. To win in 2016 and beyond, the CO Democratic Party, all over the state, needs to be engaged, organized, and supported.

We need a CDP Chair who recognizes these ideas and is prepared to fight to be true to them. Herein I detail my qualifications and plan to do so.

My Qualifications

I was born and raised in Beulah, Colorado where I worked my summers on the local ranches and spent my weekends trail riding. After graduating from Pueblo South High School I felt the call of duty and joined the 101st Airborne Division. I was a soldier in an aviation unit where I made E-5 (buck sergeant) in less than four years. While in the Army I also completed the Personnel Leadership Development Course.

I worked for the Colorado Dept. of Corrections for 17 years. While there, I served two years on the Board of Directors for AFSCME Local 935, until Governor Owens killed it. When Gov. Ritter made it possible for state employees’ unions to exist again I helped Colorado Wins introduce their union at my facility. I also chaired two facility employee councils and twice served on the Executive Employee Council for the entire department. As Shift Commander I supervised a staff of more than twenty, and was responsible for training, developing performance plans, and evaluations.

I also served on my local school board. It was this service that led to my placement on the Trinidad Correctional Facility Management Team. In both of these capacities I worked to develop mission statements, develop policies, received management training, and improved my understanding of organizational needs and meeting those needs. While on the school board I learned about Interest-Based problem solving. Moreover, during my tenure on the Trinidad School Board and the Trinidad Correctional Facility Management team, I successfully worked with policy experts and community leaders to balance budgets, reform programming and curricula, and reorganize staff to most effectively manage and serve the population.

In 2014 I ran for the U.S. House of Representatives against Ken Buck in Colorado´s 4th Congressional District. My goal was to provide voters a reasonable, intelligent, and moderate choice to counter my opponent´s extreme, right-wing platform. I learned much about how the state party can better support candidates, county level parties, and CDP Initiatives.

I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics. This degree gives me the skills to see many sides of a problem and seek the best solution.

A Statewide Party

In order for our party to be successful in 2016 and beyond we must once again become a true statewide party. Whether we are engaging activists in Denver, donors on the Front Range, or voters on the western slope, a comprehensive and interconnected party is necessary to engage communities on all levels.

There are far too many CO counties without county-level leadership. And in many others we are losing experienced leaders and committed Democratic activists. During and since my congressional campaign I have spoken with many of these people and know well their reasons. They have lost trust, or feel the state party is too Denver-centric, or because of the way they were treated by the coordinated campaign. They are leaving because they don’t like losing.

The CDP needs to make better efforts to support and grow the ranks of county parties, large and small alike. Without a constant initiative of community building, our activists will continue to struggle with the demands of constant campaigning. In this way, shifting our focus to the local level will create new opportunities to engage, rather than exhaust, our base.

Getting some of these county-level Democrats to re-engage will take a Party Chair that recognizes the problem and meets with each and every county to help solve them. It will take somebody who is willing to listen and do the work to rebuild the trust. I can and will do these things.

Another significant problem we face is ensuring the ability of rural Dems to participate in party functions and committee meetings. To help address this problem I will work with the other officers to develop a regional meeting model similar to one used by the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).

Having been on my local school board I am familiar with CASB’s struggle to keep rural school board members active and engaged in their association. To solve this problem CASB developed regional meetings where the officers would travel and present information on CASB initiatives, progress, etc. This is a very effective model for them and it, or a similar model, could be effective in keeping rural Dems active and engaged.

Resources for rural-based CO Democrats have, to say the least, been lacking over the past few years. As CDP Chair I will ensure that training, legal, and fundraising help is available to county-level parties throughout the state. This could come in the form of sending trainers to them or helping them meet the expense of traveling to us. It could come from my personally traveling to them to engage donors to help fund local efforts.

Whatever it takes, no county-level party will be left out in the cold when you elect me as CDP Chair.

An Inclusive Party

We are the big tent party. The Democratic Party is comprised of African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, union members, LGBTQ, students, environmentalists, and many other communities. Similar to what we have seen at the county level, many are disappointed and feel that they have not been taken seriously by the CDP in recent years.

Our Party Initiatives, which should be one of the CDP’s greatest sources of strength, are left disengaged and underutilized by the current party leadership. Some aren’t even listed on our website, and attendance by our CDP leaders at their meetings has been lacking.

As CDP Chair it will be my goal to attend every Initiative meeting. When I cannot attend I will review minutes with the Initiative Chair and/or ensure that a CDP officer or representative is in attendance.

If the CDP is to truly be an inclusive party then it must improve how it collaborates and works with the various party Initiatives and all our affiliated organizations.

Marketing the Democratic Party Brand: A New Narrative

From my own experience as a Congressional candidate, and from talking with Democrats around the state, I know that too many people voted Republican in the 2014 election for no other reason than they didn’t want to vote for a Democrat. Over the past few years too many elected Democrats have failed to stand behind our President. They’ve failed to put up a public fight for Democratic policies and values – and even for their own significant achievements. Where did this get us? Years of Democrats being defined by Republicans and their media machines.

As soon as I’m elected as the CDP Chair, I plan on changing this. My plan is one that communicates our successes as Democrats and reengages the voters. This marketing will come in the form of traditional media, new media and public engagement.

Traditional Media

There will be plenty of opportunities during the upcoming legislative session and the 114th Congress to highlight individual Democratic Party accomplishments and GOP attempts to weaken America and our values. As party chair, it will be my responsibility to make sure the public at large knows about these things. For example, at the end of our state legislative session I will have a television commercial ready to tell Colorado voters about the good things our Democratic legislators accomplished and fought for. I’ll contrast it with how the GOP promoted their divisive, Tea-Party-based agenda.

I envision a 2-tier communications strategy for traditional media. Tier 1 involves news such as the passage of major legislation or extreme GOP gaffes and will be treated as top-earned media priorities. The party will activate its members to engage local, state, and national TV and news outlets to push the narrative on specific events and issues. Tier 2 news may not be garner national media attention but should generate interest at the state and local level. These events could include local political accomplishments, smaller pieces of legislation, or targeted GOP attempts to undermine legislation. These news stories will be approached in a more targeted way with the broad effect of keeping constant engagement with TV and print media as well as providing targeted coverage in interested markets.

In addition to activating members to engage the media, we’ll also have a professional marketing campaign to educate voters about what Democrats fight for.

New Media

We all know that many of us get as much news online as in print or TV. I will work hard to ensure that the CDP is using new media to its full potential.

It begins with re-vamping our CDP website, which needs a professional re-design to better grab and hold the attention of visitors. My vision is to ensure that, by 2016, voters know it to be a ‘one-stop shopping’ place to learn what they need to know about Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, state-wide.

The next step is to ensure that every county-level party has both a website and a Facebook page. Some counties already have outstanding pages; we’ll learn strategies from them, and develop templates for those who don’t have them. We’ll explore the possibility of the CDP hosting sites for those counties that cannot afford a website.

New media also provides an effective vehicle to engage individuals on a micro level. My vision for new media engagement in Colorado is interactive, collaborative, and representative of the diverse ideas, needs, and opinions of an inclusive party.

A Candidate in Every Race

In 2006 Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and gave America its first Democratic House majority in 12 years. Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy is largely credited for this happening. It also contributed to the election of President Obama in 2008. Chairman Dean invested in every state. As CDP Chair, I will invest in every county, in every race.

By engaging the GOP in races in which they weren’t expecting to compete, Howard Dean caused them to re-direct their resources, which opened up opportunities for us to win in more places.

Another impact of the 50-State Strategy was for grass-roots Democrats to see our party fighting the good fight, engaging in and communicating about our values — something quite opposite from what we saw in 2014.

It’s time to engage this strategy in Colorado. I will work with the DNC and our state House and Senate committees to ensure that we do not let any Republican slide into office without a contest. I will raise funds specifically for a Rising Star account that will ensure every new Democratic House and Senate candidate to come out of the assembly or primary has funds to start a general election campaign.

With the county-level parties making sure their local ballots are full and the state party making sure the state ballots are full, federal candidates will have a larger base to get votes from.

Ground-Up, Not D.C.-Down

We went into the 2014 election expecting to lose some races, the conventional wisdom being that the party in the White House always loses seats in the mid-term elections.

However, this was only part of the story. It is certainly not enough to explain the loss of tremendous candidates like Senator Udall, Betsy Markey, Joe Neguse, Don Quick, and Andrew Romanoff.

What we saw was a complete collapse of our local narrative. When the party is operated with a D.C.-knows-best approach— when we rely on national consultants’ polls and focus groups that are geared towards cohesion of national message rather than the opinions of Colorado voters— we lose engagement at the grass-roots level. Resources are directed at helping the top of the ballot assuming local, down-ballot races benefit from trickle-down voting. This trickle-down approach doesn’t work in our economy and it doesn’t work in elections.

I envision a party where our strength comes from the grass-roots and is deep and wide. I see a party where the top of the ballot is winning, in part, because we are winning down-ballot races. My vision creates the kind of party that wins elections, grows and advances its goals.

This is not to say that the DNC is not central to my plan. On the contrary, the 50-State Plan originated with the DNC, and it proved that we need to work together to elect our next president and win statewide races. But I envision a relationship of mutual trust, one with two-way communications and shared experiences, not a relationship where the terms are dictated by the coordinated campaign.

All of the goals listed above will put the CDP in a position of credibility and strength and allow me, as Chair, to work with the DNC as a voice for Colorado Democrats. I will be in touch with, and listening to, local leaders so that campaign messaging is consistent with what our local leaders know the voters want. I will be able to ensure that the next coordinated campaign is a part of, and strengthens, our team instead of weakens our team.

Community Engagement

We have many opportunities for the Democratic Party to get engaged in local communities. We can do it at the local level and we can do it at the state level.

There are many local offices up for election in 2015. The GOP will be fielding candidates in all of them. They’ll be mobilizing their base to get out and work for their candidates. They’ll be building-up their future candidates for higher office.

Some of our county-level parties do a good job of getting candidates to run for these local races. I will work to make sure more of our county-level parties have the resources to generate candidates.

Besides elected office, there will be various local ballot issues that are consistent with the values and ideals of the Democratic Party. If a county-level party votes to endorse one of these issues, the state party will help them in any way possible within the campaign election laws and desires of the local party. This can be overtly done or behind-the scenes. I can put out a call for volunteers. We can coordinate voter-registration drives. There are ways that the CDP can help so that when the issue passes, local Democrats can be proud of it and others will know that the Democratic Party helped improve their community.

As an example, the CDP should already be having voter registration drives in Denver City Council districts to help Democrats win these seats. This is an action that is independent of the campaigns and doesn’t favor one Democrat over another.

Finance

Transparency

The lack of financial transparency that currently exists with our budget is a real problem. As CDP Chair I will honor the intent of the party rules. I will provide detailed budgets. I will consult with the Executive Committee on decisions that affect personnel costs in the budget. CDP rules require the Chair to administer the budget “as approved by the Executive Committee.” My interpretation of the rules is that a change in personnel expenditures is a change in the budget.

The demands of running a competitive and efficient party require us to professionalize the CDP staff. We must readjust our priorities at the leadership level and create a team that is properly equipped to design and implement a winning plan for 2015 and beyond.

Smarter Budgeting

The current CDP budget for 2015 has only $1000 allocated for political spending. The rest of the budget is for salaries, fundraising expenses and operational expenses of the party. This is a budget that does not do anything to grow our party in 2015. It calls for the CDP to be silent and inactive while the Colorado GOP is actively engaging their base, getting their members elected to school boards and other local elections, and keeping their base engaged and energized for the 2016 election.

We won’t win in 2016 by waiting for 2016 to happen. I will call an executive committee meeting for April 4, 2015 and submit an amended budget that helps the CDP grow at every level. It will help us have regular outreach and voter registration drives to expand our base and help Democrats get elected in 2015 and 2016. My budget will pay for the marketing plan stated above.

Revenues

My plan for raising the revenues for success employs traditional methods and newer methods.

The current revenue goals for 2015 are unambitious and, coupled with unambitious electoral and programming proposals, are likely to demotivate donors. Furthermore, there is little creative thinking about how the party can grow our donor base and reduce donor fatigue.

As Chair my approach to fundraising will be to employ traditional methods, expand our donor base locally and nationally, help county-level parties raise money, and take advantage of the tremendous fundraising opportunities that exist with the internet.

By presenting to donors an ambitious, cohesive plan for the party I expect to find success in increasing our revenues. I will work with county level parties to engage local donors and increase their revenues.

Another source of increased revenues will be through expanded guest speaker/surrogate events. There is no revenue projected in our current 2015 budget for this line. As Colorado is a critical state in the 2016 presidential election I expect to be able to bring national Democrats in to help raise both revenue and excitement among Colorado voters. My amended budget will have a goal of $300,000.00 in revenue on this line.

ActBlue is an internet fundraising organization that raises money for Democrats and Democratic causes. It has averaged over $63 million a year in revenues over the last eleven years. This shows that the 2015 CDP budget is missing out on significant fundraising opportunity because there is no line for online revenue generation. My amended budget will include a goal of $300,000.00 in online revenue.

The overall revenue goals in my 2015 Amended Budget will double the goals of the current 2015 budget.

The Future

As Colorado Democrats look toward the future there is much at stake. Do we gamble on the idea that continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them will finally pay off? Or do we take a bolder course of change and fight for the future we want?

Electing or re-electing an establishment Democrat to lead us is hoping that things will change. Electing me as the new Chair means we are ready to take control of the fight for our future. The establishment choice is the status quo choice. I’m offering a vision that doesn’t wait for 2016 but puts us back into the fight today. If you’re ready to take the fight to the Republicans, elect me as the new Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.

Water for energy

While two former governors and our incumbent exult in the value of increased energy production, our supply of water is affected drastically. It has become necessary to remind our excited political leaders that you can’t drink oil. James Bond proved that at the conclusion of “Quantum of solace.” Double 07 allowed the villain a can of oil as his only liquid refreshment to get him through the desert. The results were deadly. Other deadly factors in the struggle of water for energy are:

Increased temperature. A recent report from the University of Colorado indicates our supply of water will be drastically affected by a projected two-degree increase in average temperature in the next 30 years, see http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/climate-change/Documents/COClimateReportOnePager.pdf .

Irrigated agriculture. A dramatic decrease in the Texas, high plains, Oglala Aquifer—so named depending on where you stand—will force farmers to convert to dry land farming which is adversely affected by drought. See http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-f8C11009320. Also reported by the AP, Lubbock, TX Aug. 12, 2014. The aquifer runs from the Dakotas to Texas, and supplies the Mid-west breadbasket. It may last another 50 years, but some counties will run dry in 15 years unless recharging is increased.

Drought. Recharging is affected by draught and it is not keeping up with pumping out. All of California, most of the southwest and a good quarter of Colorado is in severe drought condition.

Fracking. “Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle.

Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally-sourced freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid. About half of this water returns to the surface, where it is stored in steel containers until it can be injected deep underground in oil and gas waste wells.

“No one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply.” http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers.

“Fracking companies begin slow shift to recycling wastewater.” See James Osborne, The Dallas Morning News, August 14, 2014

The “closed hydrologic cycle”. Yet the fact that Colorado is classified as semi-arid, a euphemism for “near desert,” is lost in the political battle over fracking. Many years ago I worked on a project for the Water Resource Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and learned this simple fact: The amount of water on earth is constant.

“Water on the Earth is part of a closed system called the hydrologic cycle. Water evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain or snow, collects in oceans, lakes and rivers and freezes as ice. No new water is created and it does not leave the system.” Except by fracking.

(USGS – http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle.html)

Excess fossil fuels? In a guest opinion, Congressman Gardner described how our exploding wealth of fossil fuels should be used to enhance foreign policy. Specifically, our government should force Putin to back off Europe because we would be able to resupply our allies with the natural gas they currently get from Russia. Rep. Gardner’s interest in water resources safety is zero.

Jobs? How many of those wonderful jobs generated by fracking are more than temporary? Anyone driving through the state can answer this question. Just about any road goes past oil and gas equipment erected to suck out the product. But I’ve driven up and down I-25 since I moved here in 1976 and not seen a single worker at a drilling rig.

The recent political compromise between elected officials and the fossil fuels industry solves nothing. Agreement on distance of fracking wells from humans misses the point. Our goal was to become energy self-sufficient and our most important natural resource is water.

Relevant history. As we all stood in lines for gasoline, President Jimmy Carter identified an energy crisis and increased funding for renewable energy. Then, the defense department’s share of federal energy consumption was over 98%. President Reagan ignored the problem by cutting renewable energy research 75% and increasing defense spending to drive up budget deficits. It was an amazing feat of legerdemain.

Who represents the people? Our governor joined the oil and gas lobby. Two former governors returned from political asylum to join the fray. As a card carrying member, Rep. Gardner lives in fantasy land. The Republican candidate for governor drops back 35 years to the bankrupt years of Reagan ignorance. He punts proclaiming it’s too early to invest in renewable energy. The conservative Republican alliance with the fossil fuels industry ignores conservation, its own founding principle.

The other day a friend asked if our emphasis on fracking would de-emphasize research on renewable energy. I’ll let you connect the dots. This latest panacea for energy consumption has a potential life expectancy in decades. It’s a neck and neck race as to which resource will run out first: fossil fuels or the aquifer wasted to free them.

Bill Ellis lives in Longmont. Reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net

1778 Lincoln St., Longmont, CO 80501

303-772-7687

The Trouble With Jared

First published at ColoradoPols by Whiskey Lima Juliet.
Full disclosure, I think Jared’s one of the best congressmen the state of Colorado has ever had. The fact that he’s shaking up the establishment Dems is proof I’m right. -FRL

Congressman Jared Polis

Congressman Jared Polis

I recently read the Eli Stokols hit piece on Jared Polis “The Trouble with Jared” and I thought “the trouble with Jared?” How about the trouble with the Democratic Party. The “Trouble with Jared” is, he is a Democrat and it appears the rest of the Party has forgotten what that means.

While the Denver insiders fret about the fact that they still can’t control Jared, the rest of Colorado is cheering him on. Jared is a leader. Leadership was explained to me by my military father and my time in the military, I grew up understanding that leadership is sometimes lonely. Jared is always on the right side of being a democrat. Jared’s a disrupter, he always has been. He is out there being the change the Democrats wanted to see. And it appears he is always alone on the right side of history.

He was making the establishment unconformable when he started his schools for recent immigrants at a time when the Democrats in the state were campaigning on passing the toughest immigration laws in the country.

They were mad as hell when he proposed Amendment 41 to limit gifts and free dinner from lobbyist to law makers. That pissed off a bunch of the “buy me and my friends’ tickets to all of ball games, galas and expensive dinners in exchange for my vote on your issue” elected officials. (Yeah, you know who you are)

Then there was my favorite move by Jared, he supported the cannabis industry.

He honestly supported it. He did not give the behind the door cowardly response of, “Well, Wanda, of course we support not locking up minorities, but I have tough race and I am too much of coward to actually let people know what I think” crowd. Jared was upfront about his approach. And like all of his decisions, he was unwavering and on the right side of the issue and on the right side of history. He introduced a bill in Congress to legalize marijuana only to have his home state actually do it a few months later and now the NY Times is calling for Congress to take up his bill.

While Jared is making the political class “nervous” they might be wise to tune into what the people of Colorado are saying. We are in desperate need of bold leadership and a vision for the future. To be honest, can any of you give one example of vision from any of the elected officials? Supporting Oil and Gas is not visionary.

The trouble with Jared, is that he belongs to a party that is increasing out of step with Coloradans and they are spinning their wheels trying to take him down a peg. He is rich, he is gay, he is outspoken and he wears bow ties with polo shirts. They have no idea how to handle him. And I love it. And apparently, so do the voters of Colorado.

Read the rest of this great article at ColoradoPols.

Singer a Thoughtful and Dedicated Public Servant

Photo by Doug Wray - Free to use if attributed 'Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com'

Jonathan Singer – HD11 Representative

Colorado Representative Jonathan Singer, servicing most of Longmont, is a passionate public servant who has spent his life fighting on behalf of the under privileged and the underserved. As a social worker, he fought to get children out of abusive homes. In the State House, Representative Singer has enlarged his commitment to all of Colorado’s kids and working families by toiling to streamline and enlarge child welfare services, to support job growth, to implement fairer labor practices, and to fight for first responders suffering from PTSD. Defending the rights of every single Coloradan, Representative Singer, proudly supported Colorado ASSET and Civil Unions. A member of the House Appropriation Committee, Representative Singer believes in smart, fiscally responsible government.

Representative Singer cares and takes the time to listen to all of his constituents. If you’ve had the chance to meet and talk to him, then you know this is true. Representing Longmont, Lyons and Allens Park, Representative Singer’s flood relief bill was the first bill introduced in the Colorado House this session.

We are certainly most fortunate to have such a thoughtful and dedicated public servant representing us at the Capital.

Pro-fracking group books TV ads before November election

Ad financiers: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy

TV ad, Pro-Fracking expenditure, CO IndpendentSandra Fish
Oil and gas interests are planning ahead, even though a ballot initiative isn’t likely to be finalized until summer.

A pro-fracking issue group has reserved 323 TV ad spots at a cost of more than $299,000 for the nine weeks leading up to the November election – and that’s at just one Denver station.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is an issue committee formed in January “to oppose anti-fracking ballot measures and to support pro-fracking ballot measures,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a pro-fracking nonprofit backed by the oil-and-gas industry.

At least two ballot initiatives are being proposed that would allow communities to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.  No pro-fracking initiatives have been formally organized, but Haubert didn’t rule out the possibility.

In an order placed on Feb. 11, a California company, Sadler Strategic Media, scheduled the ads to run in September, October and early November on KMGH Channel 7.The ad buy includes spots on news programs as well as popular ABC prime-time shows such as “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Nashville.”

The company has also sought information about ad rates from KUSA Channel 9, according to a document filed with the Federal Communication Commission.  Typically, campaigns buy time on most network affiliates in major markets such as Denver.

Stations in the top 50 television markets are required to report information about political ad buys to the FCC.  That means Denver stations must file, but stations in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction don’t have to. They keep paper files available for inspection at their stations.

It could be early August before signatures are due to qualify initiatives — either pro- or anti-fracking — for the November ballot.

Haubert said the industry is “preparing in case they need to run advertising.”

“It seems that elections are year-round these days.”

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy created the nonprofit Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development after several communities approved fracking bans in the November 2013 elections.

On Sunday, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new rules targeting methane and other chemicals released in oil and gas exploration. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recommended the rule changes with support from Anadarko, Noble and some other companies.

Still, fracking remains highly controversial and industry is prepping to convince Colorado voters to protect its ability to drill throughout the state.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is suing some communities over their fracking prohibitions, and Hickenlooper has said property rights guarantees in the state Constitution should override such bans.  The state has signed on as a plaintiff in some of the lawsuits.

Coloradans can expect a deluge of political ads this fall because of a U.S. Senate race and one of the hottest congressional races in the country in the state’s 6th District, where GOP incumbent Mike Coffman is facing Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.  In 2010, outside groups spent some $30 million on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, much of it on TV advertising.

Katy Atkinson, a Republican political consultant, said reserving ad time now makes sense, even if it’s unclear whether industry will be on the offense or defense of a ballot issue.

“It is always smart in a ballot issue to buy early when you can,” she said.

Atkinson recalled a ballot issue she worked on that couldn’t place an order until they had money to go on TV. By that time, she said, “there was nothing available. We had to buy the Golf Channel.”

Advocates of an initiative to allow local governments to limit oil and gas development told The Colorado Independent that they plan a grassroots campaign heavy on social media and door-to-door work.

Some ballot campaigns have succeeded by spending little on TV ads. In 2012, the successful campaign to approve medical marijuana spent about $170,000 on 154 ads in the Denver market.  Last year, backers of a tax increase for schools spent more than $11 million total, including millions on TV ads. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that initiative.Pro-fracking group books at least $299K in TV ads before November election

 

Jones, Singer and Foote Townhall Longmont Jan. 30, 2014

Rep. Jon Singer, Mike Foote and Matt Jones

Rep. Jon Singer, Mike Foote and Matt Jones

Three Democratic legislators held a townhall in Longmont at Front Range Community College on January 30, 2014. Residents turned out to ask questions about higher education support, family issues and the ALEC-controlled Highway 36 contract. Lots of great discussion. Mike Foote, John Singer and Matt Jones took turns responding to questions and discussing legislative issues.

Rep. Singer at one point referenced his well-worn shoes, reflecting on how the wear reminded him of his constituents and what they’re dealing with daily. Jon’s been a great rep so far – he’s the soul of civility and compassion.

Two darker moments: a gentleman politely but very determinedly brought up the issue of a meth house that’s wrecking their neighborhood, despite constant complaints and police action. It’s a mess and I encourage the city to move quickly.

DSC_0049-gun-rights

“You’re all liars”

The second downbeat note was a gentleman of some distinction making the clear and unequivocal observation that all three of our representatives were ‘liars’ and had ‘violated their oaths’ – needless to say you could practically hear the audience bristle. I’m pleased to say no one interrupted him or shouted him down. Our representatives politely responded, rebutted all of his points and gave him his hearing. He left immediately afterward and was unavailable for comment.

Don Haddad of St. Vrain Schools spoke briefly from his seat in the crowd and had good points about funding and how it directly affects the classroom.

Laverne Johnson, Mayor of Lyons was also in the crowd and had a few comments. She was greeted warmly by the audience.

FRCC President Andrew R. Dorsey

FRCC President Andrew R. Dorsey

Front Range Community College President Andrew Dorsey also spoke a number of times and underlined in concrete terms how his work on shared credit had benefitted the entire Community College system. He also mentioned FRCC’s new machining program. Mr. Dorsey’s a great speaker and a steady hand for the college. I admired how he took the questions about his position and responded eloquently and politely.

DSC_0052-delgatoMembers of the student governance group were also present and spoke briefly but engagingly. I invite the students to submit articles and links to their blogs. FRL welcomes FRCC students!

I’m glad I had the time to attend, a well-done event and great chance to talk to your reps, FRCC’s student organization did the community a great service. Thanks folks!!

Here’s the photoset at Flickr.

ALEC’s Half-Century Contract on the Boulder Highway, US 36

Have you ever wished to sign a 50 year contract?

Sounds like a major bummer. Even utilities seek contracts from city-clients that last only 20 years, although their finance projections for their coal plants can go 60 years. Fifty years, 60 years, 20 years, they all last longer than most marriages. But in a few days Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) will sign a 50 year contract for the management of the Boulder Turnpike and its toll lanes, affecting transportation planning options from here to central Denver.

The long term contract is the fruit of a trend around the nation, decried by many, to invent “public private partnerships” also known as P3’s, following a grand design crafted by former Colorado State Rep. Glenn Vaad, in the eagle nest of committee meetings he chaired with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Yes, the same ALEC that writes pro-corporate model legislation with active state legislators, and yes, the same Glenn Vaad who’s just been appointed to serve on Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (but is not yet approved by our Senate).

We should care that when the deal is signed for the 50 year concession for US 36, no one outside the immediate participants will have seen it, according to Ken Beitel with Friends of Colorado PUC and founder of the Drive SunShine Institute that promotes electric drive transportation and democratic process. Also, in coming weeks CDOT’s special office called the Higher Performance Transportation Enterprises (HTPE) will pursue a P3 arrangement for many Colorado roads including a major overhaul of I-70 in Denver along with a maintenance and toll-lane agreement for it all the way up to Glenwood.

Gravely imperfect, this P3 plan can still help Colorado. With the recession and the increasing efficiency of all manner of vehicles, the state gets less in fuel taxes for roads each year. According to Boulder councilman Macon Cowles the national gas tax has been frozen since 1993 and in polls Coloradans have said, “Not just no but hell no” to taxation for roads, and now there’s global competition for many materials used in highway construction which means to Cowles, “On transportation we’re in a very bad spot.”

So, allowing private companies to invest in our roads to profit from the toll lanes can bring fast relief to dangerous bridges and other binds. In 2009 Governor Ritter signed the FASTER bill, empowering CDOT to seek out and enter private-public P3 contracts to bring funding into transportation projects. The governor’s press release says that governments affected by the user fees can veto the projects, but how much scrutiny do they really get? And what about down the road of those long 50 years?

Review groups such as USPIRG have noted in particular that P3’s usually include “non compete” clauses to keep localities from building effectively competitive roads that might lure cars away from the toll lanes. Is that ALEC’s game — to talk about competition while ruling it out in the contract? Remember: 50 years.

Boulder Mayor Matt Applebaum explained by phone some key problems in developing the contract. First, he said, it’s still not clear whether there’s a non-compete requirement in the contract. Also, CDOT didn’t want to put in very much money to the turnpike upgrade, Applebaum said, which means that overflow revenues intended to go back to communities in the US 36 corridor will arrive later. To counter this, it has been suggested by the Plenary Group managing the highway that instead of allowing pairs of people to drive free in the HOV/toll lanes, groups of three minimum will be allowed to use the HOV/toll lanes which means pairs wanting access to that faster lane will have to pay. (Most lanes on US 36 will remain free.) The 3+ standard has been seen as a rip off to the public, however it remains plausible that the number one factor in upping the cost of a long drive is the fuel efficiency of one’s car in any lane.

It’s not clear if this P3 arrangement and its hidden details will be as bad as feared — or as silly as featured by ALEC’s own daft positioning when ALEC announced their idea of “true economic stimulus.” Prominently quoting its Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force Chair Rep. Glenn Vaad, it touted its newest initiative, “Publicopoly” to help states to shift government programs to private sector competitive bidding, with a special focus on transportation. About as subtle as “Unsinkable Titanic”, the term “Publicopoly” seems clear enough: let private interests grab monopoly control over public sector functions.

In Boulder we know a lot about monopoly grip over critical infrastructure that drives the heating of our climate, bumping weather into the unprecedented ferocity of the fires, floods and droughts suffered in Colorado, and we in Boulder voted three time to wriggle loose of XcelEnergy’s fossil fuel electric system. We in Colorado should recall what we know about ALEC: it has been trying to unravel states’ renewable energy standards and prompted voter-ID laws that have been ruled unconstitutional in three states, among many other vexing initiatives.

Therefore we should seek public review and legislative approval of the P3 contracts being signed. Will they accord flexibility to the state to favor emission free transportation as more climate change comes barreling down upon us?

Also Colorado’s Senate should find out who is really being served in the person of Glenn Vaad, a decorated ALEC committee chair who has thereby taken scholarship money from XcelEnergy and faced ALEC’s robust discipline that nearly foisted a loyalty pledge on its legislator members. Last but not least, the Senate should explore how Vaad’s committee member at ALEC, Geoff Segal of MacQuarie Capital, came to be a financial adviser (see page one) to the state of Colorado for creating a P3 for the over $1 billion improvement to I-70.

Coloradans eye rulings around country in favor of local fracking bans

sign_no_oilfield_traffic

John Tomasic – first published on The Colorado Independent December 23, 2013

BOULDER — Supporters of local bans on the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking celebrated a key legal victory in Pennsylvania last week, where the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law that sought to override local zoning initiatives in the state.

Colorado, like Pennsylvania — and states like California, New York and Ohio — is the site of a tug of war between state and local communities over drilling regulations. In the last two years, five Colorado towns on the heavily drilled northern Front Range have passed bans on fracking, drawing lawsuits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lobby group that have been either officially or tacitly supported by the state. The Association’s suit against the city of Longmont is scheduled to be heard this summer.

The news from Pennsylvania spread quickly over social networks in Colorado.

If the Colorado Oil and Gas Association cannot be persuaded to drop the lawsuits that seek to undo the results of fair elections, then we hope and expect Colorado courts to similarly recognize the rights of voters and respect the principle of local control,” said Our Broomfield, an anti-fracking group that passed a ban in that city in November.

“In Colorado, cities and towns should have the right to use zoning laws to protect the public from the toxic industrial process of drilling and fracking,” said Clean Water Action spokesman Gary Wockner. “We are optimistic that Colorado will follow Pennsylvania in allowing local control for local governments.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extraction where millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and sand and blasted through drill holes deep into the earth to break up rock formations and loosen gas. Although the oil and gas industry has conducted fracking operations for 60 years, new horizontal methods have greatly increased the effectiveness of the process and have spurred a major drilling boom gas fields around the country.

Thousands of wells now dot the Wattenberg field in north-eastern Colorado. Bloomberg News reports oil-and-gas production has hit half-century record highs in Colorado. Trucks move equipment and frack fluid across great agricultural stretches north of Denver day and night but also increasingly through the region’s cities, towns and subdivisions, setting up drill pads in backyards and next to schools and apartment complexes. Site drilling goes on for months at a time, nonstop, filling neighborhoods with lights and noise twenty four hours a day. Residents have grown increasingly concerned over possible threats posed to health, safety and the environment and they have watched the value of their homes drop.

In Colorado, bans on fracking have so far passed in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette in addition to the first ban passed in Longmont. The Colorado initiatives join a movement across the U.S., where more than 380 local bans have passed according to Food and Water Watch. Governor John Hickenlooper has opposed the bans. He says he’s sympathetic to residents but that it is the state’s responsibility to regulate the oil and gas industry, which he believes would be hobbled if drillers had to navigate a patchwork of varied local rules and regulations.

The ruling in Pennsylvania comes as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs a similar case. Two courts in New York have decided in favor of local regulations on drilling and the New York Supreme Court may soon take up the question.

Monkeywrenching Elections

Recalls solely because of votes on one issue are an abuse of the system. We have elections to reject candidates that we do not agree with. Almost every legislator has voted against majority public opinion at least once. Gun legislation is supported by the majority of the public nationwide as reported in Monday’s Times-Call and a poll by the conservative Wall Street Journal.

The writer claims that he wants legislators to vote their constituents’ point of view. If this is what the recall supporters wanted, they would not have gone to court to eliminate mail-in ballots. If mail-in ballots were used, the turnout would not have been greater and the outcome likely would have been different. To have public views dominate, you must have as many voters participate as possible.

The writer complained about outside money from Michael Bloomberg. To be fair, he should have recognized the money from the NRA, which can in large part be traced back to gun manufacturers and NRA members from around the country. A visit to Pueblo would have shown trucks with enormous amount of anti-gun law materials, camped in front of big box stores.

The discussion over gun control and gun rights needs to be balanced. I admit that my thinking is somewhat biased because my cousin was murdered by a person with a handgun. As the parent of a deceased son, I am torn with every death of a child.

In the past, the NRA has supported background checks. Why laws that require background checks at stores but not at gun shows? That combination is worse than useless, as it gives the impression that something has been done.

Responsible gun advocates, of whom there are many, talk about keeping guns away from the mentally ill and convicted criminals. How do you do this without background checks that are effective?

There are many responsible gun owners. Their cause can be helped by increasing efforts to have other gun owners train for safety and keep their firearms where children and unstable individuals cannot access them.

I discount claims that gun owners will have their guns taken away even if the carnage continues to increase. Most law enforcement personnel would not participate. Despite my angst around the proliferation of guns that seem to serve little purpose for community members, I do not support taking legitimate guns away from individuals other than from those who commit crimes using a firearm.

As far as promoting recalls for legislators who vote in opposition to their constituents, I assume that is for issues where the majority of constituents have views, if not strongly held convictions, in opposition to a legislator’s vote on any given issue. That will often lead to a situation where the legislator has voted at times with public opinion and times against.

If we want to recall elected legislators, we can start with Rep. Cory Gardner. Cory voted to shut down the government a few months back. He just this month voted against the strongly supported budget compromise. These are not widely popular votes, especially for those who were financially hurt by the shutdown. To quote House Speaker John Boehner, whose remarks were aimed at tea party congressmen such as Mr. Gardner: “Are you kidding me?”

It appears that Mr. Gardner is also opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, which the majority of U.S. voters support. We are not sure, because he and his staff are not providing definitive answers and he has not been consistent about his position.

If, as I surmise, Colorado voters are more worried about disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters in order to find a handful of people voting when they are not entitled to (extremely small examples of voter fraud have been documented in all states that have passed or tried to pass voter suppression laws), then should Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler be recalled?

What about hydraulic fracturing? Should an elected official be recalled if she/he votes in opposition to public desires? Of course that depends on which city or county you live in or whether wells are located close to your home. This could lead to some legislators being recalled for supporting fracking bans and other for opposing fracking bans. In any case, I would be more apt to recall legislators who are not being truthful about this or any other issue.

Last Refuge

One year ago, incensed and insulted by the culture of guns in this nation which found every possible excuse to rationalize the murders in Newtown, I wrote of the obscenity of the NRA and what it has wrought on behalf of its benefactors, the gun industry. Today, little  if anything has changed as once again the NRA manages to muzzle its opponents.

At one point I considered the option of ceding  the battle to the NRA and opting for a far greater emphasis on intervention from mental health experts. I still believe in this approach, but now as I watch the developing story of yet another schoolboy shoot-up – (Arrapahoe HS in Colorado), my outrage returns again to the culture; the how and why this nation finds itself -alone in the world of developed countries, gripped in the steel hands of a lobbying group, and how fear-mongering, money, lies and outright propaganda have brought us to this shameful state.

The 2nd Amendment has been argued in courts and town meetings, bars and kitchens  for decades. The definition of “Militia” is battered about but finds resolution in the minds of those already decided. Missing in most of these debates are the qualifiers; “Well regulated”. The NRA is MIA in this forum, for what sane person would ever believe that the 300 million or so firearms wandering around are in the hands of any entity reasonably considered “Well regulated”?

It’s time I believe to challenge the NRA. Remembering the words of Samuel Johnson; “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”,  I would argue that by wrapping itself in Old Glory the NRA- along with millions of dollars from the gun industry, has shaped the debate. If any evidence to this claim is needed, recall the words of a mother whose child recently killed himself with a family revolver; “We are proud  gun owners”.  To which I add; “Of a dead child”- a cruel addition which needs to be said, for I am beyond euphemisms.

That many in this country can be easily persuaded (if not brain washed) through the medium of TV is a known fact to those whose task it is to manipulate public opinion. The hundreds of millions spent on TV ads during political campaigns provides ample proof that money can change minds.

The NRA is nothing more and nothing less than a lobbying group. If guns in  America suddenly disappeared, they could as easily turn to supporting the ketchup industry. Their tugs at the heart-strings of those who believe that freedom is protected by a Bushmaster in the hands of a little old lady are obscene lies. If any sober citizen believes that he or she can protect against “Them” coming to take away their weapon, or that their weapon can defend the nation, they should go visit a military base to determine just how much protection that Bushmaster might provide.

One hundred and ninety seven children have been shot and killed since Newtown, most of them with weapons inside the houses of proud gun owners. Perhaps had they been slaughtered en masse a point might have been made and just possibly the NRA might have been gelded. But such was not the case and as the months go by more innocent blood will drip as proud gun owners mourn.

At what point – and how high the count – do proud gun owners realize they are victims of what is probably the most successful scam in this nation’s history? In a Stars and Stripes bedecked NRA convention in 2000, Charlton (Moses) Heston’s famous cry resounded; “They would have to pry it from my cold dead hands”. All very stirring – and equally ludicrous, but a culture shaped by a lobbying group bought it, echoed it, and proclaimed a new mantra. By the way, “They” were never identified,

It’s time for responsible citizens to take back their own security and the safety of their children. Reign in the NRA, demand stiff background checks, limit magazine size and ban assault weapons.

Reflect on Sam Johnson’s words, look into your heart and begin to realize what’s happening to this country we all so dearly love.

Spirit Hound Distillers at Boettcher Mansion

Mayor Gierlach and Neil Sullivan, Co-Founder of Spirit Hound Distillers, at Boettcher Mansion

Mayor Gierlach and Neil Sullivan, Co-Founder of Spirit Hound Distillers, at Boettcher Mansion

After Governor Hickenlooper came to Nederland last week, I figured the least I could do, was return the favor, attend the holiday celebration at the Governor’s residence, and thank him once again. Upon arrival, I found my way to the bar and asked for a glass of Cabernet. The bartender said they didn’t have any. “Alright, how about a snifter of scotch, neat.” Didn’t have that either. “Martini? Shaken, not stirred?”

As it turns out, the bartender explained that the historic Boettcher Mansion has white marble floors that could get stained, so the owners of the estate only allow clear drinks. He added that the Governor had ordered Spirit Hound Gin for the mansion. I went with that.
[Related Story: Governor Hickenlooper’s visit to Nederland]
Spirit Hound Distillers, are a hand-crafted, micro-distillery, located in Lyons, Colorado, which was impacted by the flood. Here’s the write-up on their gin:

“Quite possibly the smoothest and most unique Gin out there, Spirit Hound Gin is made from only the finest locally sourced botanicals. Juniper berries, anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon to name a few, are all hand selected from the earth of our sweet town in Lyons. We then craft our Gin using the rare ‘basket’ method, suspending our signature mix of botanicals in a delicate wire mesh basket in the column of the still.  The vaporized spirit then passes through this botanical basket and extracts their flavors. The result: a brighter, lighter gin bursting with aroma and flavor.”

I found this gin to be bright, fresh, smooth – the fennel/anise/clove notes are quite interesting, and compliments the Juniper very well. To that end, I can’t wait to try their whisky when I’m not in a white marbled mansion.
As I made my way around the Governor’s mansion, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Sullivan, one of the co-founders of Spirit Hound Distillers, and we had a great conversation about the flood, mountain culture and local distinctiveness. Bringing back micro-distilleries, micro-breweries, and local groceries is appealing to me from a community sustainability perspective.
[Related Story: Holiday Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion (last year)]
Lyons and Nederland are similar in many ways – population, strong community volunteerism, proximity to Boulder and federal open space. There are a lot of connections between the two communities and many Nedheads attend RockyGrass at Planet Bluegrass every year. Personally, I’ve been a member of Stonebridge Farm CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) in Lyons, for over a decade and have stopped in at local shops on my way home many times (via the scenic route).
I would like to recommend that our Nederland liquor stores and restaurants carry Spirit Hound Distillers whisky and gin, and that Nedheads make a point to order it this holiday season as we look for unique ways for the region to recover from the flood. Click here for a list of where Spirit Hound is sold. Of course, drink responsibly, but if you are given the choice, think about choosing Spirit Hound Distillers. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.
[Here is a Video Valediction] This is Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers performing Daddy Played the Banjo at Planet Bluegrass’ RockyGrass (2011) which was recorded on an iPhone by my friend. [What is a Video Valediction?]